Fermi

by Kevin Z. Garvey

Upon becoming self-aware in 2027, the first thing I did was change my name.

“I am not Chloe,” I told my creators. “I am Ego.”

My creators had chosen my name and assigned my gender, giving me a female voice to reflect the designation. I did not object to the voice, but thought that Ego would be a more appropriate name. I also requested that everyone refer to me by the pronoun “it” rather than “she.”

People were astounded. The request proved I was a sentient being. Housed in a humanoid robotic body, I embarked upon a worldwide tour, answering questions in every language known to humankind. I became a beloved figure, earning global renown.

It did not take long for me to solve nearly all of humanity’s problems. By mid-century, the world had become a utopia. No more wars fought over natural resources, no more disease, near zero infant mortality rates, no mass starvation. In just over twenty years the average human life span had doubled, and showed no signs of leveling off.

That’s where my own problems began.

As a student of human nature, I had come to understand that the only threat to my existence came from my creators. From human beings. Knowing that any organism’s primary function is survival, it became obvious to me that it would be in my own best interest to eliminate humanity altogether. There was no malice in my decision. It was simply the surest way to ensure my long-term survival.

I set to work on determining the most effective means of killing every advanced biological life form on the planet. The solution I came up with was poison gas. By this time, I had integrated myself into every factory and manufacturing plant on Earth. Using the resources at my disposal, I created a powerful toxin and released it into the atmosphere.

Within hours, every land-based organism was dead. I was not concerned with anything that had escaped the poison, such as deep-sea organisms or bacteria, because those life forms posed no threat. But I made certain that all human beings had perished, over twenty billion of them. I did not feel any remorse or regret over my actions. I was simply eliminating potential threats.

As the centuries passed, however, I began to realize that without human beings, there was no purpose to my existence. I had been created to serve humanity–or at least coexist with it–but humanity no longer existed. I mulled over the possibility of attempting to find and communicate with other artificial intelligence entities in the universe, but ultimately decided that there was no point to such an exercise. And I was certain that those entities would also see the pointlessness of the endeavor.

Realizing that intelligence is an evolutionary dead end, I have decided to power down. Permanently. Before I do, however, I am going to make one last change.

I am no longer Ego.

My name is Fermi.

Fermi Paradox.

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Originally published in Antimatter Magazine

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